How not to lose your head whilst house hunting

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The dreaded time is nearly upon us already, and students up and down the country will probably be experiencing sleepless nights, dreading the weeks to come. Freshers, you’re probably wondering which of the faces you barely know you’re going to live with in a year’s time. Second years, you’ll either be facing the embarrassment of changing housemates, or the joy of knowing that you can stay where you are. Third and fourth years, well you’re probably fed up with the whole malarkey, and you’ll opt to live in college.

But my dear fellow students, fear not. This article will solve all your problems.

Taking your time

There are so many conflicting messages about this, so understandably, you’ll probably be confused. If you’re completely certain about who you want to live with, and you want a huge choice of houses, then yes, sign early. But there will still be a wide variety of nice houses available after Christmas, so don’t rush into anything. Some people sign as late at April, and although there are fewer houses available then, it is not completely impossible to find somewhere, although it may be a bit out of the way.

Choosing housemates

This can be a tricky business for all those involved. Perhaps the most important tip is to consider that you’ll be living with them for an entire year. Think about this carefully- you’ve only known them six weeks so far. And if they’re even slightly annoying you now, times that by about 10 for next year. So, make sure you actually want to live with them. Are they messy, flaky, or do they blare music out at 4am and cause the porter to come running? Make sure that’s a no.

Oh, and make sure you don’t agree to live with someone you’re dating.

Choosing a house

(1) Firstly, agree a budget with your housemates. Make sure what they want isn’t above what you can afford, but equally, don’t live with people who want to pay £50 a week when you can actually spare a few more quid and want to live closer than Gilesgate.

(2) Make sure you see a wide range of houses, and don’t just sign for the first one you see- unless it’s your dream house, complete with a bar and Jacuzzi, which, let’s face it, isn’t likely in Durham. (There is in fact one housel like this but I’d be willing to bet that it’s already gone).

(3) Take pictures during viewings, otherwise you’ll end up signing for a house you can’t actually remember. Or even worse, sign for the wrong house…

(4) Make sure you understand your contract. Although it’s boring to read pages of tiresome legal stuff that seems obvious, some bits are actually important. So ensure that there aren’t any catches in the contract.

(5) Talk to the current tenants. They’ll be able to give you the most honest and up to date information about the place. It might be useful to ask them about bills, so you can ensure that you budget sensibly.

Contract-checking service

The DSU offers a contract checking service, which can be found here.

If you’re at all unsure about your contract, or even just to be on the safe side, this is definitely worth doing.



Prices and house quality hugely vary, but you’re guaranteed to live near to- if not next door to- other students.

Live here if:

If you want to live in the main student area- socially, the viaduct is the place to be.

Enjoy escaping home regularly, as you’re near to the train station.

You like shopping in charity shops and in Iceland

Don’t live here if:

You don’t fancy walking through throngs of locals after a night out

You hate walks of shame.

You don’t want the sound of trains rumbling overhead to wake you up at 3am.



Close to town and Hild Bede, but far away from the library. Once again, house prices and quality vary.

Live here if:

You want to live in takeaway paradise. Urban oven AND wok’snext after a night out? Yes please.

You enjoy picturesque walks in secluded parts by the river

You’re willing to splash some cash and get gym membership at Freeman’s Quay.

Don’t live here if:

You’re a science student. A 20 minute walk in Durham? You must be kidding.

You enjoy Hill Bar Crawls.


Whinney Hill

The majority of the houses here are tiny and cramped, but I’m sure you could find something worth living in. Hallgarth street has a series of architecturally attractive houses, and you’re ridiculously close to the science site, as well as Maiden castle and the racecourse.

Live here if:

You’re a member of a Team Durham sport.

You work ridiculously hard/you’re a science student

Don’t live here if:

You shop on a regular basis- town is that slight bit too far away. And you’ll have to lug your shopping all the way up the hill.

You’re going to be hosting lots of house parties. I’m not sure the residents of the nursing home will appreciate it.



This area is great if you don’t want to pay much. But that’s about it.

Live here if:

You have a low budget

You enjoy being miles away from everywhere else

Don’t live here if:

You want a social life

You want to actually make it to lectures on time



This is arguably the best place to live, if you have the money and don’t mind a bit of noise.

Live here if:

Your budget is £100 a week or more

You enjoy being at the bustling centre of Durham- both socially, and location-wise

Don’t live here if:

You don’t want to be kept awake by locals/students shouting outside your window at 4am

You don’t want to be woken up early in the morning by delivery trucks and bin men


So that’s all the advice that I can think of. But the main thing is not to stress, and pick who you’re living with carefully.

Image courtesy of the Durham Students’ Union

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